|Book of Concord (Triglot Concordia): The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church | Calvin's Institutes | Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ | Heretics by Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936) | Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis | Josephus: The Complete Works | Orthodoxy by Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936) | Sermons on Gospel Themes by Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) | The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (1628-1688) | The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (Nicholas Herman, 1605-1691) | Walther's Law and Gospel | Westminster Confession & Catechisms ||
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This is the dregs! It is a very hell! If all the other abominations were forgiven, this one could never be forgiven you. This has filled hell; it has injured Christ's kingdom more cruelly than the Turk or the whole world could ever do. You taught us that by our works we ought to make satisfaction for sin, even for sin against God; and that was called repenting of sin! You never laid so much importance on contrition and confession, though you made works of them, too. What is it to say, "You must render satisfaction for your sins," except to say, "You must deny Christ, renounce your baptism, blaspheme the Gospel, call God a liar, disbelieve the forgiveness of sins, trample Christ's blood and death under foot, dishonor the Holy Ghost, and go to heaven with these virtues by your own efforts"?
Where are there tongues and voices with which to say enough about this?
How does this faith differ from the faith of Turks and heathen and Jews?
All of them, too, would make satisfaction by their works. But how can a soul do anything else than despair if it has no other confidence against sin than its own works? You cannot deny this charge; your books are extant in which nothing is taught concerning faith in the treatment of either penitence or confession, but all the teaching is about our own works. And yet there is neither bishop nor cleric to shed a tear over this horrible, hellish blasphemy of Christ. They are pure and safe. They call us rebels and slay the married priests, contrary to their own law. They are offended because the Lutherans do not make a pretense of fasting, as they do, and do not wear tonsures. They defy the eternal God with their inhuman wickedness.
Out of this abomination have come (nay, they had to come; there was no way to prevent it!) all the other abominations, namely, the self- righteousness of so many of the monasteries and chapters, with their services of worship, their sacrifices, masses, purgatory, vigils, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, indulgences, fasts, worship of saints, relics, evil spirits, and the whole parade of the hellish procession. What else is possible? If conscience is to stand and build on its own works, it stands on sand, which slips and slides continually. It must be looking for works, one after another, and the longer it seeks, the more works it must seek. At last they put cowls on the dead so that the dead might go to heaven. Dear Lord God! What were poor consciences to do? They had to build on works; therefore they had to seek them so wretchedly and snatch whatever they could find, and fall into this deep folly.
By these shameful doctrines, too, all the real good works, which God has established and ordered, were despised and brought to naught. Such are the works of rulers, subjects, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, servants, maids. These were not called good works, and no account was taken of them in repentance. They were known as "a worldly life," "a perilous state," "lost works." Thus this doctrine trod under foot both the Christian and the worldly life, and gave neither God nor Caesar his due. Instead it invented a new and peculiar life, which is neither Christian nor worldly; indeed they do not know themselves what it is, because they have no word of God for it, but as Moses says, they serve gods whom they know not.
This was no wonder. For at that time no one knew how to preach the Gospel otherwise than to teach out of it examples of good works, and no one of us ever heard a Gospel that aimed to give comfort to the conscience and to lead to faith and trust in Christ. That is how it ought to be preached, and, praise God! it is now preached that way again. Thus the world was in the Gospel, and yet it was without the Gospel.
They ought to have made a wise distinction between two kinds of satisfaction for sin, namely, that for sins against men, which can be, and that for sins against God, which cannot be made, as Christ shows in Matthew 7:12 and Matthew 18:15. The holy fathers made use of it and caused Christians who had sinned to render satisfaction before the Church and their brethren. This is apparent from the words with which they imposed two or three or seven years of penance. Thus Christ and His satisfaction would have remained in heaven. But in that way the services in the chapters and monasteries would not have come up, likewise the indulgences of which I spoke above, and the great god Belly would not have got so much. Therefore they had to confuse the two kinds of satisfaction , and at last make satisfaction avail before God only. To be sure, this error attacked the Church from the beginning, and through great men, at that, such as Origen and Jerome and Gregory; but it never reached the government of the Church, nay, the very throne of God, as it has done under the pope. For this is the oldest of errors and goes back to the beginning of the world; it will also remain the newest, clear down to the world's end. We will now tell of some of the things that have come in later.
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